By using different literary methods authors are able to give their readers a better understanding of the message behind the piece of work. Using methods such as themes and symbolism allows readers to find the underlying meaning of the story rather than just simply reading something with no meaning or emotion behind it. While reading Robert Frosts Poem The Road Not Taken and Eudora Weltys short story A Worn Path, people get a sense that life is a lonely place full of sacrifice at times. Although these two pieces are different, their use of symbolism gives readers a better understanding of the characters in each work and figure out their real struggles with the choices they make. Literature is meant to take its readers to another place and allow them to become part of it, whether it be a story or a poem or play. They are supposed to give the reader a sense of the life and its events that the authors want to share. Frost actually has a sense of uncertainty in his work which can make it seem more relatable to people. It makes it easier for the reader to put themselves in the other persons shoes and relate to the poem and feel as if they are actually a part of it or understand what is being said.
In The Road Not Taken the main character is facing an important decision in their life. Frost makes it clear to the reader that this person is facing a major life changing decision and this is something he must decide on his own. By having this man alone and knowing what is going on in his head the reader can actually put himself in the characters shoes and feel the same separation and importance of his situation. This makes it much more intense because the reader now understands the weight this man is carrying on his shoulders and that only he alone can make this important decision that will ultimately change his life.
A Worn Path is similar to Frosts work but Welty chose to use a third person limited point of view which allows the readers to view the story as an outsider yet still allows them to feel and understand what is going on with the character. For example when Phoenix says Out of my way, all you foxes, owls and beetles she is talking out loud to herself. This puts the reader on the outside allowing them to watch without being a part of the story and allowing them to see the character in the proper setting so that they can see the entire picture.
According to Clugston (2010), the setting is meant to put boundaries around the action and [define] the environment in which conflicts can be witnessed and character development observed (6.1). The old woman in Weltys story must make her long journey from way outside the city in the middle of winter. Welty describes the old Negro womans apparel thoroughly as well as gives detailed description of the nature around her. The author explains, She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows. The setting of the story greatly contributes to the plot because the author takes time to show how the old woman struggles through the journey to her final destination.
The setting in Weltys story also contributes to the theme. Here we have this rough, cold terrain and this little old woman struggling to make it through on her all to familiar journey in life. Again and again she makes this sacrifice of her health to take care of the ones she loves. Alone she must travel up through pines and down through oaks; eventually crossing over a creek and down into the city of Natchez. This lone journey through life shows her struggles and physical weaknesses, yet still manages to reveal her bravery and determination.
Frosts setting is very much different from Weltys. Whereas Welty brings depth into her story by using a defined setting and character, Frost intentionally leaves some things to the readers imagination by purposely being vague in his poem. He introduces readers to two roads diverged in a yellow wood. He lets the reader know of this life altering decision that this man must make but does not actually tell people who this person is or what decision it is that he is facing.
The way the poem is written is intriguing because it allows the reader to put their own opinion into it and guess what it might actually be that this person is dealing with. Only in the last stanza do we realize that the narrators journey on the chosen path was not regretted. This sort of setting works for this poem because it is short and unspecific. It enforces the theme of a life-long journey, because, often times people must make life decisions such as this without knowing if the chosen path is the right path in life. All we have to look back on is our regrets and our accomplishments and that is what Frost did with his poem. He said, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
Imagery is used in both of these pieces of literature. According to Clugston (2010) writers use precise language in developing images. When Frost wrote of one path bent in the undergrowth and that the other path seemed grassy and wanted wear, he was putting an image of the wilderness with two paths in the readers head. Eventually, the narrator puts himself on the current path that is observed as being grassy and having the better claim. He may have felt regretful and sorry that he couldnt go down both paths but he eventually chose a path that seemed the better choice.
As a reader, one can imagine someone standing for a long time at a cross roads, debating over which path is the best path. It is almost as if the narrator is looking towards the future, trying to decide which life has the happier ending. The tone of the poem seems gloomy because of the words like sorry and sigh. It seems that the narrator still wishes to go down the other path just to see how or if it turns out differently.
The heavy imagery of nature is apparent in The Worn Path also. Welty gives great detail in her story. For example, Welty begins with A bright frozen day early in the morning. According to a journal writer, James Saunders (2010) he proclaims, The story begins conspicuously on a cold December morning, and just as quickly we are made aware that this is an old black woman. Saunders is referring to Weltys description of Phoenix being an old negro woman walking slowly through the woods. Although this is how she is described we can see from the information given that she is a strong minded woman. The information we are given clarifies our picture of her, and it also reveals her character, particularly her determination (Clugston, 2010, 6.3).
Welty uses different techniques through out the story to get readers to empathize with the woman yet excited to see what will happen next. Rather than just tell the reader who the characters in this story are and what they are like Welty uses imagery to follow Phoenixs journey and feel her struggles. It actually gets you hoping for her to make it. For instance, when Phoenix was trying to cross the river,
Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival figure in some parade, she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other side (Clugston, 2010, 6.3)
Instead of portraying a pitiful old lady, the author takes a lighter tone to describe Phoenixs struggle with the log. It turns many of her weaknesses into her strengths.
Symbolism plays a huge role in both Weltys and Frosts work. Symbolism is something that has a literal identity but also stands for something else-something that is widely understood... (Clugston, 2010, 7.2). Symbolism is used mainly in reference to nature and animals.
For instance, if something is described as being black, that could be interpreted as being symbolic for evil, ignorance, corruption, or death (Clugston, 2010, 7.2). Frost wrote, And both that morning equally lay, in leaves no step had trodden black. So perhaps when the narrator looked down both roads he could not see any danger that would await him.
The Two roads diverged in a yellow wood could also be a form of symbolism although it is more obvious than others. Usually, when someone comes across a split road, they must make a monumental decision. Most always it is a life changing decision. So, when the narrator exclaims that he is stuck between trying to choose one road or the other, what he means to say is that he is trying to decide which path in life he wants to follow. It makes more sense that the narrator is stuck there for a while trying to make up his mind. The narrator knows that he cannot go turn back because his decision is final. What he is doing is sacrificing one future for another. This decision for him is not easy because life is not easy, and now that he looks back on life her wonders what would have happened if he had taken the other road.
The Road Not Taken seems to symbolize the choice that this person made. He chose the path that was less traveled but would always wonder what the other path led to and where it would have taken him. Readers can relate to this poem because this man symbolizes every persons desire to see the outcome from the road not taken.
One stanza of 'The Road Not Taken' was written while I was sitting on a sofa in the middle of England: Was found three or four years later, and I couldn't bear not to finish it. I wasn't thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn't go the other. He was hard on himself that way. (Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 23 Aug. 1953)
Symbolism is great because it gives every reader the opportunity to make their own interpretation of literature and how they relate to the piece.
Welty uses a more symbolic approach. In her story the characters name is phoenix. It is stated that a phoenix is a unique red bird that is supposed to live for 500 years before bursting into flames and then repeating its life as a small bird once again. A phoenix bird, according to Clugston (2010), is supposed to symbolize renewal (7.2). So, perhaps readers can say that this old woman, too old to remember her actual age, finds the determination to continue on this path again and again, refusing mortality through the sheer stubborn willpower that gets her through the day and all because she is her grandsons only hope of survival.